Official Name: Republic of Chile
Established: 12 February 1818 (Declare Independence from Spain)
Population: 17,574,003 (2017 census)
Religion: 66.7% Catholic, 16.4% Protestant, 3.5% Other Christian, 11.5% No religion
Order of Visit: Forty-First
First Visit: 3 November 2012
Last Visit: 7 November 2012
Duration: 5 Days
– Puerto Natales: Watching a car rally event
– Torres del Paine National Park: Finding majestic condors, 7.5 hours hike to the amazing Granite towers, camping under the stars and clouds, hiking the French Valley, safely witnessing a massive avalanche, hiking to Grey’s Glacier.
Places Visited: Puerto Natales, Torres del Paine National Park
Chile Journal Entries
History and Geography
Covering an area of 756,096 square kilometres Chile is located in western South America occupying a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Chile is bordered by Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far south.
Humans sporadically frequented the Monte Verde valley area as long as 18,500 years ago. About 10,000 years ago, migrating Indigenous Peoples settled in fertile valleys and coastal areas of what is present-day Chile. The Incas briefly extended their empire into what is now northern Chile.
In 1520, while attempting to circumnavigate the globe, Ferdinand Magellan discovered the southern passage now named after him (the Strait of Magellan) thus becoming the first European to set foot on what is now Chile.
The Spanish founded the city of Santiago on 12 February 1541. Although the Spanish did not find the extensive gold and silver they sought, they recognized the agricultural potential of Chile’s central valley, and Chile became part of the Spanish Empire.
Cut off to the north by a desert, to the south by the Mapuche, to the east by the Andes Mountains, and to the west by the ocean, Chile became one of the most centralized, homogeneous colonies in Spanish America.
In 1808, Napoleon’s enthronement of his brother Joseph as the Spanish King precipitated the drive by the colony for independence from Spain. A national junta in the name of Ferdinand – heir to the deposed king – was formed on 18 September 1810. The Government Junta of Chile proclaimed Chile an autonomous republic within the Spanish monarchy.
On 12 February 1818, Chile was proclaimed an independent republic but with little social change. The 19th-century Chilean society preserved the essence of the colonial social structure, which was greatly influenced by family politics and the Roman Catholic Church. A strong presidency eventually emerged, but wealthy landowners remained powerful.
A military coup led by General Luis Altamirano in 1924 set off a period of political instability that lasted until 1932. Of the ten governments that held power in that period, the longest lasting was that of General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, who briefly held power in 1925 and then again between 1927 and 1931 in what was a de facto dictatorship. By relinquishing power to a democratically elected successor, Ibáñez del Campo retained the respect of a large enough segment of the population to remain a viable politician for more than thirty years.
The 1964 presidential election of Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Montalva by an absolute majority initiated a period of major reform. Under the slogan “Revolution in Liberty”, the Frei administration embarked on far-reaching social and economic programs, particularly in education, housing, and agrarian reform, including rural unionisation of agricultural workers.
In 1973 a military junta, led by General Augusto Pinochet and supported by the USA, took control of the country. The first years of the regime were marked by human rights violations. During Pinochet’s regime 40,018 people were either killed, tortured or imprisoned for political reasons.
In a plebiscite on 5 October 1988, Pinochet was denied a second eight-year term as president (56% against 44%). Chileans elected a new president and the majority of members of a bicameral congress on 14 December 1989. Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin, the candidate of a coalition of 17 political parties called the Concertación, received an absolute majority of votes (55%). President Aylwin served from 1990 to 1994, in what was considered a transition period back to a real democracy.
What I experienced
I’m only visited Chile at it’s southern most border during a tour of the Patagonia area which Chile shares with Argentina. In this area the borders are less formal due to being so remote and the challenges of living in such a rough and cold environment.
I spend most of my time in Chile exploring the stunning Torres del Paine National Park, hiking for many hours over many days and camping in a tent during to stay warm. The landscape of this area is very unique, seeing an avalanche in person is something I will always remember especially coming from such a warm weather continent in Australia. Hiking to view the Granite towers up close was definitely worth it. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to visit more central Chile one day to get a better understanding of this country.